Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chick Corea - 1972 [1999] "Return to Forever"

Return to Forever is a jazz fusion album by Chick Corea, simultaneously functioning as the debut album by the band of the same name. Unlike later albums by the group, it was released by the ECM label and produced by Manfred Eicher. The album was not released in the USA until 1975. The record is often considered one of the classic albums in electric jazz.
At this stage Corea's approach to jazz fusion was very different compared to other early fusion artists. Adventurous electric piano solos are backed with South American oriented rhythms of drummer Airto Moreira and the vocals and percussion of his wife Flora Purim. Stanley Clarke is the bassist of the group (playing electric bass on A-side and double bass on B-side) and Joe Farrell plays flute and saxophone. This first line-up of Return to Forever consists of musicians (excluding Joe Farrell and Flora Purim) that were also playing on Stan Getz's album Captain Marvel that was released in the same year.
The first track can be divided into five parts. There are three short parts in which Corea plays simple, haunting melodies with Purim doubling them with her voice. Between these three parts there are two longer parts in which the whole band plays. These main parts are both based on their own riffs. Farrell plays a flute solo over the first main part and Corea plays solo over the second. Moreira's drum pattern gives the composition an airy feeling of its own. Purim sings along with riffs, screaming a bit towards the end.
The second track, "Crystal Silence", is Corea's song. The track is played just by Corea and Farrell with some soft percussion in the background. Farrell performs a long saxophone solo. Third track, "What Game Shall We Play Today?", is another of Corea's songs. It has a very affectionate melody and Purim singing vocals. Farrell is now playing the flute. Corea and Farrell give short solos between the second and the third verse. The band would return to this song during the Light as a Feather sessions later in 1972, when they made four attempts with it; though the song did not make it to the album, all the takes appeared on the expanded edition of Light as a Feather.
The B-side of the album has only one track which consists of three different pieces of music. Probably they have been recorded without breaks and this is the main reason why they are not separated on three individual tracks; the bass lines skilfully link them together as well. The first seven minutes of the track consist of an improvised introduction featuring Corea, Farrell and Clarke, slow-paced and feeling akin to a Chinese landscape painting. As this section closes the piece moves into "Sometime Ago". It is a Latin flavored song with Purim's vocals and Farrell soloing on flute. After that song Farrell switches to soprano saxophone and the band plays "La Fiesta", one of Corea's jazz standards. Corea has written that most Spanish songs deal with matters such as misery or torture but "La Fiesta", however, is about celebration. The song is an instrumental piece that relies on flamenco modes.

Toward the end of 1971, Chick formed his first edition of Return to Forever with Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, Joe Farrell on soprano sax and flute, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion and Moreira’s wife Flora Purim on vocals. On February 2 and 3, 1972, they recorded their self-titled debut for ECM, which included the popular Corea composition "La Fiesta."

A month later, on March 3, 1972, Chick, Stanley, Airto and drummer Tony Williams teamed together as the rhythm section for Stan Getz's Columbia recording Captain Marvel, which featured five Corea compositions, including "500 Miles High," "La Fiesta" and the title track.
By September of that year, Chick was back in the studio with Return to Forever to record the classic Light as a Feather, a collection of melodic Brazilian-flavored jazz tunes including new versions of "500 Miles High" and "Captain Marvel" along with Chick's best-known composition, "Spain." In November of 1972, Chick also recorded the sublime Crystal Silence, his initial duet encounter with vibraphonist and kindred spirit Gary Burton.

By early 1973, Return to Forever added electric guitarist Bill Connors and thunderous drummer Lenny White, and the group was fully fortified to embrace the emerging fusion movement. In August 1973 Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy instantly elevated them to the status of other fiery fusion bands of the day like John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Joe Zawinul-Wayne Shorter-led juggernaut, Weather Report.

By the summer of 1974, with the 19-year-old speed demon guitarist Al Di Meola replacing Connors in the RTF lineup, the transformation to a bona fide high-energy jazz-rock concert attraction was complete. Hordes of rock fans embraced the group and were able to enter the world of jazz through such important albums as 1974's Where Have I Known You Before, 1975's Grammy® Award-winning No Mystery and 1976's Romantic Warrior, which became the best-selling of the RTF studio albums.

Track listing

All tracks are composed by Corea except where noted.

1.   "Return to Forever" – 12:06
2.   "Crystal Silence" – 6:59
3.   "What Game Shall We Play Today" (Corea, Neville Potter) – 4:30
4.   "Sometime Ago - La Fiesta" (Corea, Potter, Stanley Clarke, Joe Farrell) – 23:13

Personnel

    Flora Purim – vocals, percussion
    Joe Farrell – soprano saxophone, flute
    Chick Corea – electric piano, Fender Rhodes
    Stanley Clarke – acoustic bass, electric bass
    Airto Moreira – drums, percussion

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